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Posterized November 2017: ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ ‘Lady Bird,’ ‘Thelma,’ and More

Written by on November 2, 2017 

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably.

Daylight Savings coming to an end alongside that brisk autumn chill means awards season is finally here. So get your brand new MoviePass ready and your route to your local indie theater cleared. For those more into superheroes than critical darlings, however, don’t despair. Both Marvel and DC have you covered too. Add Pixar’s latest Coco (opens November 22) and I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see November earning a bigger box office take than any summer month this year as a result.

Super characters

While it first looked as though DC would do things differently than Marvel as far as meet-ups versus standalones, their trajectory proved pretty similar if accelerated. We got our Superman movie, Batman (kind of) movie, and Wonder Woman movie all before their paths cross with newcomers Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman (Avengers had six established opposite two newcomers). And while Iron Man and company “assembled,” Batman and friends are “uniting.”

With five years between their competitor’s gamble and this month’s Justice League (opens November 17) bow (Joss Whedon ultimately and inexplicably ushering both into theaters), the risk is less about the viability of the genre and more about that of the DC tone. It’s therefore unsurprising that Warner Bros have skewed close to their predecessor while also trying to mine the current zeitgeist.

So WORKS ADV’s teaser logo recalls BLT Communications, LLC’s Avengers with some added drama. The original sheet housing all five heroes stays rather tame with big text and little context. These are conservative approaches, but they occur during a period where the goal was simply name recognition and stock poses (see row two).

That leads us to B O N D and their appropriation of Alex Ross’ seminal Kingdom Come artwork with fantastic, shadowy portraiture of Ben Affleck and company. If only they didn’t decide to turn each hero’s symbol into a letter to then incorporate into the tagline, this thing would be worthy of hanging on the wall. That logo gimmick is laughably bad, though. It cheapens the austere drama of the rest.

Concept Arts does a much better job with those icons on their character sheets (see row three). They decided to let the symbols enhance their design rather than overpower it, each one interlocking with the Justice League emblem for continuity. This allows their appropriation of Mike Mitchell’s Marvel-heavy profile paintings—more egregiously than B O N D with Ross—shine on its own. But while it’s one thing to mimic lighting effects, it’s another to literally steal an aesthetic. I hope Mitchell was compensated.

From here B O N D moves to cartoon illustration while retaining the clunky tagline. And Concept Arts moves to an intriguing split-screen look for their new portraits (see row four). The latter shows again how they have a better handle on using the icons as enhancement rather than distraction. They blow each up to be a window of sorts wherein the image outside is a black and white depiction of the character’s “human” disguise and the image inside is a colorful glimpse of each in full uniform. Again, however, it can’t help but recall another artist’s work: Martin Ansin’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.

LA went with the kitchen sink aesthetic on Thor: Ragnarok (opens November 3). Whether it’s their circled worlds showing just how many places the titular hero goes this time around, computer chip diamonds keeping their collage interesting despite it still being a collage, or the Photoshop illustrative filter slicing Thor into segments inhabited by his co-stars, these designers threw everything in. And why not when the logotype they’re working with looks like it was lifted straight off an Atari cartridge? Amp up the colors and assault eyes to ensure they remember Asgard is back.

Even Tracie Ching goes full color crazy with her metallic looking lightning Thor storm above right. It’s not as much psychedelic as it is collectible trading card with foil emboss. And while that sounds snarky, I don’t mean it as such. It’s a style unlike anything else on the multiplex’s walls and frankly that’s the goal. You’re trying to distract someone and this one is shiny enough to do so unironically.

This is why B O N D’s heavily saturated chalk clouded character sheets are simultaneously boring and unforgettable. The poses are stiff, but the color is electric. I’m not sure if there’s relevance to the texture besides it looking cool and tactile as opposed to blurry explosions, but it definitely turned my head. Sometimes it’s just about finding a solution to a problem. How can we complement these characters with color that’s attractive and “real?” Throw dust at them.

LA had their work cut out for them with Wonder (opens November 17) since you don’t want the marketing material to hinge on prosthetics. Mask avoided the same issue back in 1985 by always having Eric Stoltz’s character seen in silhouette or from behind because the point of these films is message-based. You don’t want to scare shallow people away with an “ugly” face. You want to bring them in with promises of uplifting empowerment.

That doesn’t mean LA shies away completely. In fact they do a nice little maneuver wherein Jacob Tremblay’s Auggie is “revealed” after an initial tease with the actor in a space helmet. The concept draws viewers in with mystery while also dealing with the imagery in a delicate manner that’s neither exploitative nor cowardly. Put him on a bright pastel blue background with bold white text devoid of counters and you ensure our focus is on this “kind” boy we “can’t wait to meet.”

But when it was time to do something more substantial, the firm went back to anonymity with the helmet and illustration. The painting is cute with the dog and “alien” feeling, but perhaps too precious and avoidant. The animated series is therefore the film’s best because it puts Auggie on equal footing alongside his costars without making passersby uncomfortable. “Choose Kind” arrives with a playful lilt and faces become black and white abstractions of hair and flesh with only an eyeball adorned by the title to add personality. It’s simple, effective, and unobtrusive without being misleading.

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